While members of Congress were scrambling to respond to Gen. David Petraeus's testimony, Katie Couric sat down with the general in Washington earlier today.
The general has spent nearly 16 hours over two days before four different Congressional committees, armed with charts and graphs, to bolster his claims that security in Iraq is improving. He said he welcomed the chance to respond to critics who have accused him of cherry picking and twisting the facts.
Couric: So your response to charges that you all are manipulating data is what?
Petraeus: We have consistently measured, we haven't changed. If anything, we believe that we have more data because our forces live in the neighborhoods to a much greater extent than they did in the past and have more information as a result of that.
Couric: You got an earful yesterday from many members of the U.S. Senate. Foreign relations chair Joe Biden said, "Over 1,000 weekly attacks and you're calling that a success?" Armed services chairman Carl Levin said of reports of progress through the years, he described them as "a litany of delusions." Respected Republican Richard Lugar said, "It's not enough to council patience until the next milestone or the next report." Don't they have a point?
Couric: Has it made you reconsider any ways to speed up this process?
Petraeus: Well, I mean, we have looked for every way we can and we will look for more ways, frankly.
Couric: President Bush will embrace your plan to bring troops home to the pre-surge level of 130,000 by the end of this summer. When can more troops be withdrawn?
Petraeus: I can project out that far to mid-July of next year and then around mid-March or so I would have a degree of confidence to project beyond that. So there will be continued reductions, but I just can't at this point, predict the pace of those reductions.
Petraeus: Well, by getting locals to do what happened in Anbar Province, by getting local security forces, Iraqi security forces to help thicken what we do, to augment and then to take over.
Couric: But your critics have said that this strategy is too open-ended, General, with no long-term plan. And this sort of time will tell, we'll see how it goes philosophy just doesn't cut it.
Petraeus: I think to try to look way out and say this is exactly what we're going to do in a country that has surprised us repeatedly just would not be responsible.
Couric: You cannot envision 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for the next 20 years.
Petraeus: No way.
Couric: What about five years?
Petraeus: I'm not going to hazard that kind of projection or prediction. I think it's actually irresponsible.
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